The Fifth Meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council was hosted by Maldives in Male on 13th June 2011. All SAARC Member States participated in the meeting. While Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka were represented by their concerned ministers; Nepal and Pakistan were represented by the concerned Secretaries of their respective Ministries.
The Ministerial Meeting was preceded by the Sixth Meeting of the SAFTA Committee of Experts and the Sixth Meeting of the SAFTA Sub-group on Non-tariff Measures which were held on 11th and 12th June, 2011. The Secretary General of SAARC inaugurated the meetings of SAFTA Ministerial Council and the SAFTA Committee of Experts. Maldives as the host chaired all the meetings.
The SAFTA Ministerial Council adopted the reports of the Sixth Meeting of the SAFTA Committee of Experts and the Sixth Meeting of the SAFTA Sub-group on Non-tariff Measures.
Some of the important decisions and understandings arrived at the meetings are as follows:
The sensitive lists are to be pruned down as much as possible. Before the next SAARC Summit, at least 20 percent reduction in the current list is to be done. Based on request from other countries, attempts toward further reduction in the sensitive list will be made by each member country.
Bangladesh will finalise terms of reference for a study on how to increase exports of items from Least Developing Countries to the non-Least Developing Countries after it receives inputs from other Least Developing Countries.
Afghanistan has formally been inducted into the SAFTA Trade Libralisation Programme (TLP). The provisions of the TLP will be applicable to Afghanistan with effect from 7th August 2011 as per the notification issued by the SAARC Secretariat. Afghanistan will be presenting a linear tariff reduction schedule for consideration of member states in this regard.
It was observed that the TLP plan is progressing as provided for in the SAFTA.
For better trade prospects in the region, the Member States should make their offers on the principle of GATS plus while conducting negotiations under SAARC agreement on trade in services.
With regard to sub-group on non-tariff measures, it was noted that the major work of submitting notifications on NTMs/PTMs, responses and counter-responses has been completed. Therefore the remaining work of the group will be taken over by the SAFTA committee of experts.
The next meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council will be held in Islamabad, Pakistan